Not many companies can lay claim to a more than 110-year history. Kaeser & Blair can. Founded in 1894 as Cincinnati Printing and Paper Products Co., the firm was bought in 1923 by two paper salesmen, Dutch Kaeser and Bill Blair, hence the current name.
In the 1970s and 1980s the company shifted its offerings from printing and paper to “advertising specialties,” which now comprise all of the company’s business. Advertising specialties are promotional items such as pens, mouse pads and clothing that companies buy emblazoned with their names and logos. The company, which sells exclusively through third-party dealers, provides advertising specialties for all sorts of organizations—from “mom & pop shops” to Fortune 500 companies. Today, Kaeser & Blair processes about 120,000 orders per year and generates annual revenues of $75 million.
The Trouble with Paper-Based Processes
Orders arrive at Kaeser & Blair via the Internet, telephone, fax and mail. Data from orders are entered into the company’s systems, but often source documents are needed to answer an inquiry. This paper handling creates a bottleneck in the company’s business processes.
Paper’s greatest drawback is that it’s a physical medium. When someone needs a document, it must be found and delivered to the appropriate person. That takes time, especially if documents are lost or misfiled. And, while this manual process is taking place, customers are kept waiting for answers.
Another issue is that documents can be in only one place at a time. If two people need the same piece of paper simultaneously, it must be photocopied. Copying costs are not an issue if the location of the document is known, but if it’s lost or if someone else has it, considerable time and effort may be wasted looking for it. Furthermore, paper-based documents take up significantly more space than electronic files.
Kaeser & Blair wanted a solution to its paper handling costs. After investigating the alternatives, the answer was clear: Webdocs from HelpSystems
Document Scanning and Storage Software to the Rescue
Ed Jessie, an IT consultant at Kaeser & Blair, evaluated a number of document management solutions. Webdocs came out ahead of the pack both on features and price.
Webdocs allows organizations to store document images, PC files, emails, and computer-generated reports on iSeries or PC servers. The documents can then be accessed using up to 10 index keys. Once loaded into the system, authorized personnel can use a standard web browser to access the documents from anywhere in the world.
Most paper documents that come into Kaeser & Blair are now scanned, indexed and stored electronically. If a document contains a barcode representing the order number, Webdocs can automatically recognize that barcode, capture the value and index the document accordingly. Documents without barcodes are indexed manually. Webdocs also easily handles emails and other computer-generated reports from the company’s Windows-based and System i5 servers.
For example, Kaeser & Blair has integrated buttons, such as “e-mail to order”, “e-mail to dealer”, “e-mail to vendor,” and “e-mail to quote” buttons, into users’ Microsoft Outlook software. When users send or receive an e-mail that should be saved with a related document, such as an order or an invoice, they simply click the appropriate button. A pop-up window then asks for two pieces of identifying data and a copy of the e-mail is saved in WebDoc’s document database.
Accessing documents managed by Webdocs is done through a standard web browser, making them accessible to authorized Kaeser & Blair users through any networked PC. To view a document while working in a green-screen application, users just press a button that they’ve come to call the “easy button.” A screen scraping process finds the identifying number, such as the order or vendor number, on the screen and Webdocs then displays the documents related to that number.
Webdocs manages security to protect the privacy of documents. The software also logs changes made to documents, making it possible to track the lifecycle of each document.
Increasing Profits and Streamlining Workflows with Webdocs
Kaeser & Blair has seen significant benefits from Webdocs in the form of reduced costs and enhanced dealer and customer satisfaction. The company used to employ “runners” to retrieve and deliver paper documents to the people who needed them. Because not all paper is currently scanned, some runners are still required, but their number has been reduced by a third.
At time of writing, Webdocs had been live for less than five months. It’s expected that in the next year, as more documents are added to the system, runners will be eliminated or reassigned to more high-value tasks. In addition, unlike paper, it’s impossible to misplace an electronic document. Consequently Kaeser & Blair has been able to eliminate the time that used to be spent hunting for lost documents.
Dealers, and consequently their customers, are more satisfied because, when dealers call with an enquiry, it’s no longer necessary to call them back or put them on hold while the information required to answer their questions is sought. Instead, Kaeser & Blair employees can immediately access the necessary source documents online.
All of these benefits quickly delivered a positive contribution to Kaeser & Blair’s bottom line. “We recouped the costs within a couple of months,” said Jessie.
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